Sunday, 19 February 2012

Tales of Damasco: Update 2

As I post this, the second 'Tale of Easie Damasco', Crown Thief, is more or less finished, with just the final chapter in need of a third draft tidy-up.  Of course, that's finished in my usual, heavily-qualified sense, since I'm bound to want to do another quick polish draft, and I plan to keep more of an eye on the copy-editing and proof-editing side of things this time - not to mention that Angry Robot may well request changes of their own.

Still, that's a slightly depressing way of looking at things when I am, to all intents and purposes, about to type (well, retype) THE END on my third finished novel.  Especially given that I'm distinctly happy with this one, and beginning to suspect that it might be the best thing I've done.  Perhaps there's always the urge to think like that on finishing a project of this size, but the feedback I've had on the second draft, not to mention the things Giant Thief readers have been saying they'd like to see in a sequel, make me hopeful that I've at least nailed down a solid second adventure for Damasco.

Mind you, I'd probably be feeling more relieved if finishing Crown Thief didn't mean rolling straight into (a very brief) planning period for Prince Thief, and then seeing if I can't get started on it somewhere around the middle of March.  Yes, I've become a regular 'Tales of Damasco' factory ... but then, there are plenty worse things I could be manufacturing, like landmines or Pokemon sex toys, so I'm not going to feel too bad about that.

Meanwhile, the Giant Thief news continued to tumble in.  On the left is a photo from the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto*, arranged by the marvellous Jessica Strider, who approached me with the opportunity of some serious display space and a list of interview questions (poised, to either side, complete with answers) that can also be found here.

There have also been a few more reviews, though the flood seems to be tailing off a little now.  Still, both Cybermage and the Falcata Times have nice things to say, so I shouldn't complain.  Comments from The Some Smart Book Database - an invaluable resource for those who like to have every detail of a book's plot up to and including the ending laid out before they even consider buying it - are less favourable, although Scott's review does end on the suprising suggestion that "...if you like fast-paced fantasy that doesn't rely on magic to solve every problem, definitely give Giant Thief a read."  Also, it has plot radar, which is oddly great, and reveals Giant Thief to be light on Epic and Modernity but well stocked in the Humour and Action departments.

Last up, and thanks to John DeNardo and Sally Janin, I've done my first ever guest blog posts.  Up to read at SF Signal, and borrowing somewhat from Ed Brubaker for its title, is The Not-So-Secret Ingredient in Crime, a ramble about how in my head Giant Thief is actually just as much a crime novel as a fantasy one.  Meanwhile over at The Quillery - where I was recently interviewed - there's Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth, where I lengthily accuse myself of plaguarising the possibly-greatest fantasy film of all time and then get scared and back down at the last minute.

* Yes!  Absolutely the same World's Biggest Bookstore that appeared in Short Circuit 2!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

SFX 2012: Part 2

Saturday I was up early once more, encouraged by the irrepressible Mr Lavie Tidhar.  A good job too, because Saturday was my actual work day, where I did stuff to earn my magic get-into-Pontins-free card.  Saturday, in short, was the day where all the scary stuff piled up like a motorway pile-up of scary.  Partly my fault, of course, for running into the Fantasy Faction lads at the previous night's party and arranging my first ever face to face interview with them for after my first ever panel and my first ever book signing.  I mean, there's an argument for jumping in at the deep-end, right?  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that?  Absolutely.

Less likely to kill you than you might think.
I'm not entirely sure what I did for the first half of the day.  I know I hung around the bar quite a lot, was hugely impressed by Jonathan Green's vast and varied writerly CV and  wandered over to Lavie's signing of his new House of Murky Depths-published picture book Going to the Moon!, which from the flick I had at it while trying to work out if I could afford to buy any more damn books, looked tremendous.  I remember going for lunch and somehow - I really have no clue how - managing almost to be late for the panel and having to peg it back to Pontins amidst some classically welsh weather.

So.  The panel.  It was called It's Not a Story, It's a Map!, and I was there with Gaie Sebold, Sam Sykes, Ian Whates and China soddin' Mievelle, with moderation provided by the terrific, great-blurb-providing Juliet E McKenna.  So no pressure.  None.  Reliable people had assured me that although China is a living legend and looks like some kind of mythical giant-squid-hunting badass, he's really a lovely guy, (he was), and that although Juliet could talk the legs off a giant squid, she would no doubt make a top class moderator (she did.)  All was good.  My cool remained more or less intact - even when, on my third pass through the green room* I realised that the elderly bearded chap regailing all and sundry with some lengthy and bizarre anecdote at enormous volume was Brian bloody Blessed.

The suggestion to sit in name order was my only contribution, but it was a good'un.
None of this, however, dinted my surface calm - mainly because the hangover was kicking in quite hard by that point and I was mainly focused on making sure my body didn't do anything to embarass me.  And as it turned out, despite hopelessly inadequate technology that rendered it impossible for anyone on the panel to actually hear what the others were saying, I fared quite well.  I made a couple of comments that didn't seem too brazenly idiotic, no one tried to laser anyone else's face off with a clockwork heatray and we managed to come to the unanimous conclusion that maps are the ultimate evil in fantasy literature and must be burned upon the altars of our dark gods.

(Personally, I quite like maps in fantasy books, but sometimes you've just got to pick your battles.)

Next came my signing, sitting me once more besides the mighty Mr Ian Whates, and the brilliant-yet-alarming news that Giant Thief had already more or less sold out.  Great on the "wholly crap, Giant Thief has sold out" front, not so hot on the "what am I actually going to do for the next hour?" one.  But it worked out pretty well, since a couple of people came back with previously-bought copies and enough punters arrived that we managed to flog the last few.  (Huge thanks, by the way, to everyone who sought out my illegible squiggle.)

Marc, me, Paul.  Say what you like, but I shined the hell out of those Docs.
With all the really terrifying stuff over with, I was pretty relaxed by the time Marc Aplin and Paul Wiseall arrived to wisk me off for my Fantasy Faction interview.  It was a lot of fun, and I got to burble about a ton a stuff close to my heart, like why short stories are great and what a complete asshat Easie Damasco is.  Of the two live interviews I've done recently, I think this is the one that's less likely to embarass the hell out of me when I hear it.  Cheers to Marc and Paul for being almost unbelievably nice and enthusiastic, and for managing to comandeer a passing spaceship just so that we could all have our photo taken together.

Work done, I retired for dinner and then more drinkage ... and finally, late in the early hours, the delirium tremens-like flailing that must pass for dancing if you happen to have an XY chromosome.  Needless to say, it isn't a sight that needs to be inflicted on rational beings (not that there were many around by that point), so it's a damn good job I managed to switch to pained glaring mode before Jonathan Green unleashed something we'd all regret.

Four thousand people?  No problem, mate!
Sunday I was up bright and early once again, after a refreshing five hours sleep (damn you Tidhar!) and ready to brave the machinations of the British train companies - who, god bless 'em, had completely failed to notice that they'd sold about a thousand times as many tickets out of Prestatyn as they would on a normal Sunday, and had cancelled the train out in favour of shuttling everyone to the nearest city in half-hourly milk floats.  Cue a chain of events that nearly led to us being pumelled by Storm Troopers and a couple of hundred irrate, hungover con'ers. 

But that's a story for another time...

Lastly, while I remember, cheers to old friend, master comics creator and soon-to-be Solaris novelist Al Ewing for keeping my company on the journey home - and indeed to everyone who hung out with and / or and bought me drinks, the Angry Robot gang for a great first signing, and of course the SFX folks for a con par excellence.  Roll on 2013!

* See!  Celebrity terminology!

Friday, 10 February 2012

SFX 2012: Part 1

Yes, that's Lavie Tidhar with Monkey.
Honestly, I have no idea how to make sense of the SFX Weekender.  Just mentally sifting through the haze of drink and fried breakfasts and steampunks and crazy welsh weather is a feat in itself.  It's tempting to just pull a lazy Best. Con.  Ever gag and leave it at that.  Which, after all, it was - because however great last year's Fantasycon was, at no point did it include a Storm Trooper fighting with a Dalek or Bananaman in crime-fighting conference with Spiderman or ... er ... Lavie Tidhar with Monkey.  And from here on in, such things will be my measure of Con greatness.  Because it turns out that everything in life is better with cosplay.

I got in at about half three on Thursday, and was kept company by the station cat while I waited for my hotel-roommate-to-be, the aforementioned Mr Tidhar.  Then we trooped over to our hotel, the Beaches, which it was abundantly obvious even from a distance would be much nicer than the rundown holiday council estate that was Pontins Prestatyn.  (This would turn out to be a generous assessment in favour of Pontins, which by all accounts was a dire hellhole - whereas the Beaches was all-round lovely.  Good call on leaving booking too late to get a chalet, Tidhar!)

Yes, that's Stormtroopers doing car checks.
We made our way around the barbwire-topped fences, snuck past the Stormtroopers doing car checks on the gates (I kid not!) and somehow blagged our way inside to hunt down Angry Robot co-editor Lee Harris, who had our passes, slyly smuggling in Ian Sales on the way.  If the Stormtroopers hadn't been a giveaway of what was to come, the fact that the lobby had been turned into a spaceship interior - complete with Aliens - sure was.  Then we tracked down Lee in the bar-cum-cinema that was the Screening Zone, and I was pleased to find him and the other Angry Robot-ers sitting with Alasdair Stuart and Ro Smith, old friends from my York writing group that I don't see nearly often enough.

Then Lee opened the celebratory book-launch champagne. Then Paul Cornell turned up.  Then, apropos of nothing, they started showing Labyrinth.  And truly all was right in the world.

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur - of the catastrophically drunken kind - so jump forward to Friday morning.  Friday morning began bright and early with Lavie forcing me to get up for breakfast at some ungodly hour, after about a fifteenth of the sleep my body would have needed to break down all the alcohol in it - an event that, against all reason or mercy, would be repeated over the next couple of days.

Yes, that's Robert Rankin about to heatray Lavie Tidhar's face off.
Still, it meant I got to attend the Elf Preservation panel - starring Joe Abercrombie, Juliet E McKenna, Graham McNeill, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Gav Thorpe - and then promptly almost nod off in it.  No representation of how interesting it was, I promise, just sheer sleep deprivation ... it would have taken the guests attacking each other with ray guns to keep me awake after the previous night.  Which, fortunately, was exactly what (okay, very nearly) happened when Lavie was contentious enough to suggest that the Victorians may not have been the loveliest people in history to Robert Rankin during the Steampunk panel.

After a brief diversion to attend the Kitschies ceremony (Lavie's Osama being deservingly up for Best Novel), we resumed our acquantance with the pub.  As evening settled in, reasoned debate and polite ultraviolence were abandoned once again in face of good, honest liquor.  But things took an unexpected turn when we got invited to / possibly inadvertently gatecrashed a party held by one of the big publishers at their big-publisher author chalet (I think it was Pan Macmillan, but the answer seemed to vary on who you asked.) Under the firm supervision of our agent John Berlyne, Lavie and me soon found ourselves somewhere that looked a lot like nowhere in the Welsh countryside - only to be rescued from likely death by our taxi driver coming back to admit that the address we'd given him probably wasn't that of the cat sanctuary he'd dropped us off outside.

And yes, that's Benedict Jacka's first non-YA novel
The party started well.  My particular highpoint was being a colossal geek by helping Adrian Tchaikovsky explain the apt / inapt concept from his Shadows of the Apt series to Benedict Jacka*, despite his quite obviously not needing my help because he, you know, invented it.  But it quickly became apparent that there were dangers lurking beneath the still party waters.  Because, where was all the booze?  By the time we arrived, there were two boxes of beer, half a dozen bottles of wine and a dangerous amount of rum between fifty or so people.  Lavie had had the good fortune to discover a hidden stash of lager, but it soon became apparent that even that wasn't going to save us.  Left with no choice - unless you consider sobriety a choice, I suppose - we set out back to the internment-camp horrors of Pontins, where there was at least fizzy alcohol-water on tap.


* Whose first non-YA book comes out next month, and looked good enough that I picked up a copy despite my famous cheapness.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Road to SFX

Just a note to say that I'll be at the SFX Con in Prestatyn this weekend if anyone feels like saying hello, along with a veritable army of Angry Robot authors - Ian Whates, Andy Remic, Adam Christopher, Gav Thorpe, Anne Lyle and Lavie Tidhar.

Actually, the truth is I'll be a little more than just attending.  I have my first ever signing - at five in the afternoon* on the Saturday, along with Ian - and my first ever panel right before that at four, entitled It's not a story it's a map - does Fantasy set worldbuilding over character? Discuss and featuring such folks as Ian (again!), Gaie Sebold, Sam Sykes and China ("holy crap it's China Mieville") Mieville.  So that's - y'know - terrifying.  But in a good way.

A terrifying good way.

Anyway, while I'm here, why not share a bit of Giant Thief news?   It's coming in thick and fast, after all.  Over on the left there is a copy on the "Classic Fantasy and Sci-fi table" at the Waterstones in Cambridge, a dramatic rise to fame that may have had something to do with my friend Bill S. Brennan.  But hey, it serves them right for misfiling me (since when does TA come after TH, eh, Waterstones Cambridge?)

Then there are a couple more reviews up.  Keith West at Adventures Fantastic says that "With his debut novel, David Tallerman has succeeded in doing what few authors have done.  He has written a story ... that made me laugh out loud," and concludes that "Tallerman is not an author with whom I was familiar before reading this book ... I'd be willing to be his name will become more prominent if he writes more books like this one."  Meanwhile, over at Tor.Com, Stefan Raets impressively thorough review winds up with the heart-warming suggestion that "If you’re in the mood for something fast-paced and entertaining, not too challenging but instead light and, well, simply fun, Giant Thief is a great choice."

Lastly, I've done another interview - this one's with Sally Janin from the Qwillery, and covers such controversial topics as Plotting vs Pantsing and my guaranteed-or-your-money-back cure for writer's block.

Right, then.  I may or may not see you at the SFX weekender.  I'll be the one looking as though he's about to wet his best undercrackers at the thought of attending his first panel.

* Not, as Darren Turpin at AR was good enough to point out, six like I originally said.